It’s a little known fact that one of Canada’s biggest growth industries is senior citizens. The number of people aged 85 and older increased by nearly 20% between 2011 and 2016 – four times faster than the growth rate of the Canadian population as a whole – which was 5% during that time.
It’s a blessing, of course, that we are all living longer, healthier lives. Our challenge is to figure out how to best manage and care for our elders, particularly in a pandemic-fraught world where seniors in nursing homes became the highest-risk population. In a May 2020 study, the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that long-term care residents made up 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths in the country.
So you want to keep them close, but how close? Do you invite them to move in, build an in-laws’ suite, or rent a nearby apartment for them? And how do you finance the costs if your parents’ fixed income is not quite enough to sustain them comfortably?
Nathan Battams of The Vanier Institute has studied the situation in Canada. “Cohabitation can help avoid or reduce some of the stress and costs that might otherwise result from providing care to a parent who lives out of town or in another province,” he wrote in 2019. “So it is perhaps not surprising that nearly one-quarter (24%) of Canadians who provided care to their parents in 2012 lived with the care recipient(s).”
The Canada Caregiver Credit allows caregivers to claim a tax credit when providing for adult dependents with physical or mental infirmities. An accountant or financial planner can help sort out a strategy for financing the new costs of parental management.
But expenses are just the start. As any family knows, there are always emotional concerns. Many parents barely get their adult kids out of the nest before finding themselves promptly back in the caregiving role for their parents. Many find themselves in the “sandwich generation” of struggling to care for kids and parents simultaneously. And many families suffer when dementia or other incapacities change their relationships.
Fortunately, the benefits of having multiple generations can be mutual, particularly when grandparents and great-grandparents get involved with the younger ones.
Kathrin Boerner leads a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts interviewing adult children over the age of 65 and their senior parents over the age of 90. “Very old parents provide more support to their senior children than I had expected,” she said. “While it is more in the domain of emotional support and advice, they also supply some practical support.”
If you have aging parents, this is a good time to speak to a financial advisor and make sure you're all prepared for the next phase of your lives.